To view our previous log entries please use the following link: Tunisia I.
To view our next log entries please use the following link: Italy (Isola Pantelleria)
Tunisia, as a country with a great deal to offer, we found the countryside and the people fascinating. Our travels, by road along the north coast, our journey south through the west country was truly enlightening, an experience we will not forget. The people so friendly, so happy with what little they have, it makes one almost ashamed to be part of the european, materialist culture. Our short visit to the Sarah was our goal, we would have like to stayed longer and did more but our journey of just over 1600km was always intended to give us an overview of the country, that, we have achieved we feel and have many fond memories and experiences.
. We, unlike most, made the decision to use Sidi Bou Said as our base, this we feel was certainly correct for us. Typically, cruisers like us head for the east coast - we did not like the east coast as such. We felt it was an area, created for the tourist, for the tourist, not reflective of the true people or culture, we saw the same influence in a lot of people's characters. Sidi Bou Said is not truly reflected in any of the pilot books (IMRAY's), entrance is easy with care, and is dredged regularly, within the marina manoeuvrability is no more restrictive than any where else (and we are long keel and no soppy bow thruster!). Formal clearance at the port is quick and polite, we even exchanged humour, which was far from what I had expected from "reports" from else where? The town itself, a friendly, blue and white picturesque place has a lot to offer, we are know as "tea tea" in the local internet cafe - no need to state why? There are also major supermarkets within a 4TD (£2) taxi ride. The TGM runs every 10 minutes, the trip to Tunis taking 15/20 minutes at a cost of less than 2TD (£1). This all a great positive over the marinas based on the east coast. As we exit the Mediterranean in coming years we plan to return to Tunisia, we will therefore return to Sidi Bou Said, it would be a great place, in our opinion, to winter (space allowing) also should the need arise. We are told by the Capitaine (a charming man), that there is always room for the summer visitors.
We would certainly recommend a visit - contact Capitaine SOUISSI Lazhar (email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Log Entry Thursday 13th May - We leave Tunisia, we have a 48 hour weather window?
Today looks as good as it will get for us, the sea forecast looks good, force 6 forecast in the right direct (north west). The local forecast cover the Gulf of Tunis is predicting up to 25 knots, but again from the north west so all looks good? The interesting forecast is showing 35-40 knots (force 7-8) due late Friday and with us for three days - not for us thanks! To sit that out here would mean undoubtedly waiting until Tuesday to allow the sea to settle, we have now 48 hours to make our way to Malta? We pay our dues, Lazhar, the Capitaine makes his way down to Sailaway to wish us good luck, a very nice gesture we thought. We clear our "departure from Tunisia" with the authorities, Sailaway is "inspected" and declared clear to leave. We wish our French friends (Sylvian, Amelie and their two children aboard) who had been berthed alongside us for almost a week - their destination Sicily. We are to make for "Isola Pantelleria" one of the Italian islands between Tunisia and Malta, the trip should take us about 18 hours. As the recent forecasts have been quite erratic, our plan is to make our way out of the Gulf of Tunis (approximately. 35 miles) and head for the best destination relative to the winds - hopefully the Italian islands, but it could be Sicily, only time will tell? We slip our lines and make our way to the fuel pontoon, fill up (350 litres @ £0.47p per litre), at least a third of the European prices - no tax on fuel here!
We make our way out, we have enjoyed our stay here but we are more than ready to leave and move on. The wind already is not as per the forecast, north east, rather than north west, problematic but manageable, at least we can move on towards Malta. As we headed north up the Gulf, we reflected on our last month, our experiences and the people we have met. As our journey continued the wind built up to over twenty knots, close to the local forecast in velocity, but incorrect with regards to the direction. We keep a look out but see no sign of Sylvain & Amelie, they had left some time ahead of us but clearly must be making good progress. We were surprised by the amount of traffic, to and from Tunis - a constant stream of ferries and freighters. As it is, with a increasing wind, the sea builds, the trip becoming a "little bumpy". We approach the channel between the islands of Djamour al Kebir/Zembretta and Cap Bon, leaving the gulf about 1900 hours. The wind is now very favourable and we are making good speed as the sun sets.
We take turns at watch during the night, we are surprised by the cold - shows how soft we have become? The night watches keep us busy as there are lots traffic in the area, mainly fishing vessels. At one stage, Ann, on watch calls me up to help her identify the activity of one particular fishing boat, she declares that it has changed course numerous times (which is normal, as they trawl) but was now heading directly at us at speed? I had been sleeping, as I climb into the cockpit and look across it was clear that it must have finish trawling and was heading towards us at speed, 500/1000 meters or so away? We were in a blow, with 25 knots on our stern quarter, moving at about 8 knots. Ann had already illuminated our sails with a power lantern we carry, this activity is recognised and can be seen from miles away, taking the wheel I instruct Ann to "light up the canvas" again as by now, the vessel was less than 500 meters away? I was now at the wheel, waiting to take any avoiding action until the last minute as, the vessel was now so close and moving so fast, our point of sail was also a serious factor to consider - changing our coarse "the wrong way, which ever that was?" could make the situation even worse. Then, as we both went silent, with our eyes fixed on the approaching vessel it clearly swerved, to port (to his left for non-sailors) he had clearly just seen us, he was now trying to pass ahead of us, as apposed to behind us - still we were by now pleased of any action at this stage? I think he had clearly under estimated our speed, the large trawler past clear, about 50 meters, ahead of us, it was huge, but fortunately fast, we held our coarse and surfed over his bow wave - thankfully. While we both agree, night watches can be a little boring, this was not the sort of "activity" we would welcome again, it is the closest we have been to a collision, and would not welcome a reoccurrence.
For the rest of the evening, we had little to do other than to keep our selves occupied, we were about 15 miles off the Isola Pantelleria when it appeared in the distance just after 0500 hours. It was now daylight, with both of us on deck we declare it safe to take down the Tunisia courtesy flag and raise the Italian flag - we were now truly out of Tunisia.
Log Entry Tuesday 11 May - A new berth and neighbour!
We have been weighting some ten days now for good winds, we wait today for a south easterly force 7 to blow over, and the sea fall from very rough to some thing more manageable. For tomorrow for the first time we are promised northerlies of similar strength but at least in a favourable direction, in the morning we will check the local forecast issued by the marina, if "as is promised today" we will leave. With Malta our true destination we will round the cape and see where the winds take us? Our options are to, if favourable winds (we are not taking bets?) either continue on to Malta, approximately 48 hours, or break the the journey on the Isola Pantelleria (one of the Italian Islands) to the east of Tunisia. If the winds are less favourable, we will make for the south coast of Sicily, from there on to Malta.
We are moved a short distance to a new berth, the owner of our previously allocated berth has returned his boat to the water - we have a new friend? It is some form of marine life obviously, but more of a "jelly fish" as apposed to a fish?
It comes from underneath the adjacent power boat, makes its way around us occasionally breaking the surface - then returning to it's origin. It looks like it propels itself with what appear to be wings? Still it does us no harm and certainly makes no noise, so we are not disturbed by the creature!
Log Entry Tuesday 4th May - A visit to the Bardo Palace Museum.
Waiting the weather we take the spare time we have to further explore the history of the area, it is clear there is a vast wealth (in our opinion) of yet un-found secrets from the past. We have visited a few of the historic areas, not in one have we seen any ongoing excavation or digging. It appears in many cases that relics have been either uncover or re fabricated enough to create the site or interest. As you visit various places of historic value, relics are displayed from many, various areas - there is no central area for the collection of relics from Carthage for example. This museum is similar full of interesting articles from scattered, numerous sites around the area, some exhibits still under build. There is a massive building expansion ongoing to the museum, but little information appeared available as why?
The Palace is situated in the Bardo region to the north-west of Tunis, it has a large ultra modern style university as a close neighbour. We take the TGM into Tunis centre, then a taxi out to Bardo costing 7TD (£3.50) as apposed to the Metro. The palace internals are grand, decorative with excellant examples of ceramic paneling as on would expect, an apt selection as a museum as it contributes significantly to the atmosphere to the exhibits.
The building houses an extensive collection of coloured ceramic paneling from many locations and periods, photography, similar to all locations is permitted, the use of flashes not, which is understandable. Unfortunately the use of flashes is wide spread by the visitors, not policed by the staff.
There is a complete collection of "Tomb Mosaics", the scenes are extremely detailed, each one telling a specific story or relative tale.
In one of the halls a mosaic, "The triumph of Neptune" is under re-construction, with an approximate size of 13m x 10m and weighting 14 tons a sizable task. It was apparently discovered in 1888 and placed into a private dwelling in Sousse where it remained until now, becoming available to the public.
In a further room sits an interesting collection of jewellery, some extremely detailed configurations of metal and stones.
We then came to "The Ship Room", a hall dedicated to a vessel called "Gree", little is stated about its past other than it is believed to be dated 80 - 70BC. It was believed that it originally left Athens, believed to be on the way to Italy. A storm blew it of coarse, eventually sinking it off the Tunisian coast, numerous relics are exhibited - a great interest to us obviously?
Some of it's hardware survived, it's anchor being re-constructed full size - it was described as "a lead anchor", how did they lift that?
A selection of it's furniture has also been re-constructed, a complement of original and new, it gives a good indication as to how the wealthy could have lived, the crew, slightly different one would imagine?
There is also an almost perfect collection of numerous bronze articles on display from the wreck, some dated circa 125BC.
We then make our way up to the gallery, amazing to walk on mosaics, one can only imagine from the origin of the Palace, not historic artifacts?
Once up above in the gallery it gives a totally different perspective on the massive mosaics below, the work that must have been involved in their creation becomes clearer, although still not fully appreciated of coarse.
The gallery houses a number of cases filled with interesting figurines from various locations, with little dating available.
A strange exhibit (below) caught my eye - a bronze figurine of a "Drunken Hercules" dated "AD" - made us laugh as it left nothing to the imagination?
Log Entry Sunday 2nd May - Killing time!
Having recovered from our wanders, we, and Sailaway are now ready for the off. Our next destination is the Italian islands between Tunisia and Malta, we have three weeks before we are due to meet up with friends (and Mum!) in Malta. We plan to spend that time visiting Pantelleria and the Pelagie Islands weather and time allowing. Temperatures here now are rising, by mid afternoon into the mid/upper twenties, tourists are also increasing in numbers by the day.
We now start the the daily task of monitoring the weather, for the next couple of days we would have strong head winds - they are forecast to drop off for Tuesday, fingers crossed. We monitor the weather via the VHF and the internet. Our next trip is only about 85 miles, to arrive in daylight we will look to leave Sidi Bou Said about mid afternoon.
The internet cafe we use is boarded by two Kebab Cafes, the odour from both always very appealing, but as yet, we had not weakened, until today We choose "Chez Christine", only because it's proprietor beckoned us in first? We choose to sit in the upper, back terrace, we were not alone. We had a camel, made from stone keeping a general eye on us and a stuffed snake in the corner making sure we did not leave without paying! The kebabs were lovely, served with gratis fries and a select of sauces, three out of four too hot for Ann - more for me.